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Badges, Proton, high milers and LCVs

Used cars need badges - it is important to establish exactly what they are, and how to value them correctly. The trade are masters at undervaluing cars because they are not sure of the model, or the specification. They have an uncanny habit of looking at the cheapest in the book and trying to buy it for that price, simply because they are unsure of the model. If it turns out to be a better model, then they feel they have just won the lottery.

Badge engineering, as it has been technically called for the past few years, is increasingly a factor in used car values. It is also an issue where vans are sent to auction. If the trade don't know exactly what model it is, or whether it is short, medium or long wheelbase, they will again try to buy it for the cheapest possible price. It's all down to a lack of understanding and dealing in the unknown.

BMW has for some time been criticised for offering optional de-badging. Although other manufacturers do offer this service, it seems that only BMW drivers prefer in some cases to have their cars without boot badges. It is normally the lower end cars that are de-badged. But BMW are unusual in the fact that the exact spec, date first registered, who supplied the vehicle new, and service history can be obtained by any BMW dealer within a few seconds, provided they have the PIN number. This system is available to virtually any dealer or leasing company, providing they have a good working relationship with a franchise holder. This openness about a car's history can only help residuals as it gives the confidence that every dealer needs. Until other manufacturers catch up with this technology it's back to sticking badges on cars, not a bad thing when it comes to car park snobbery.

It appears that Proton is engaged in a concerted effort to attack the fleet market. The recent introduction of the Impian is Proton's best effort so far to target leasing and contract hire companies. Proton has been in the UK market for over ten years and has had a roller coaster ride. After getting off to a great start, fortunes have been mixed. With no real clear marketing plans, the public was confused, as was the dealer network at the constant re-organisation of staff and model line-up at the importer.

It takes years of consistency to become established with customers. It seemed to take Seat and Skoda forever to establish themselves in an already crowded corporate market. For yet another manufacturer to secure orders quickly may not be so easy in the short term. In the longer term, the products have to be better than the rest and offer value for money, with image being another factor. With Cap Monitor predicting mid-twenty per cent residual values at three years/60,000 miles for the Impian, Proton has some way to go to prove itself. Used Protons have always sold on price, although few were ex-fleet, most being from private owners and having low mileage.

As the tax laws change in Malaysia in a few short years it will be easier and cheaper to buy imported cars. This means the factory will have to export more to maintain sales levels, as the home market will have more competition. Whether Proton in the UK will have other dominant fleet manufacturers quaking in their boots, or not, only time will tell. But according to dealers new Protons are seeing healthy demand from retail buyers, and some conquest business is being done.

High mileage vehicles take the low price road
As nice used cars continue to be sought after, albeit at softening prices, the rest are still on a slide. High mileage cars are now really struggling with 80,000 miles being the ceiling for most dealers. When it gets to 100,000, there are hardly any bidders. These are really hard work and will continue to get harder. Some auctions are turning away higher mileage cars as they know they could be sat in the compound for a long period, after being run through the hall a few times. The difference in values between cars with up to 60,000 miles and those over 80,000 is getting wider.

Business is still a little patchy in the commercial vehicle market according to the senior editor of Red Book, David Hill. However, there are still some deals to be made. Astra vans are still performing steadily with the exception of the DTi model, which is not achieving the expected premiums. Kangoos and Combos are steady and although Escorts are still around in numbers they are holding their own. Bigger vans are hard work if they are high on the miles, with the exception of Sprinters, but even 308s have to be tidy.

Ford Transit long wheel base high roofs are coming closer to standard roof values as they outnumber them in the market. Whatever the badge on the front, XLWB drop-sides are good news because they are in very short supply. Tippers are also good news, but buses are right out of season.

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